“Everyone deserves a seat at humanity’s table.” That was a favorite expression of my friend Frank Kelly, who died in 2010, one day before his 96th birthday. Frank believed it was essential for a peaceful future that everyone be seated at that big table and everyone’s voice be heard. I couldn’t agree more. We need a table that has room for all of us, a table at which everyone is fed with opportunity; everyone’s human rights are upheld; and everyone has a chance for their voice to be heard.
Right now there aren’t enough seats at the table, and the seats that exist have been taken by the wealthy and dominant of the world. But who should speak for humanity? Should it be the G-8 or the G-20? Should it be the P-5, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the ones who reserved for themselves the privilege of the veto power? Should it be corporate titans? Should it be representatives of the military-industrial complex? These are the people who have claimed the seats at humanity’s table for themselves, and they seem quite content sitting there, hoarding resources and opportunity, and pulling the strings of the world. But all is not well.
The rich and powerful may not yet recognize it, but they are sitting on a precipice, and they have a long way to fall. The table where they are sitting is not stable. They may believe that they can maintain their exclusive control of the table by using their wealth and power to bring in the police to cordon off the area, but this is only a temporary fix. Unless they open the doors and expand the table, they are headed for a fall. And with them is likely to go the table and all the resources they have sought to maintain for their exclusive use.
To bring everyone to humanity’s table is not just the polite thing to do, it is the right thing to do. It is also necessary. The poor of the world know what is going on behind locked doors. They know that their poverty and suffering are related to the greed at the restricted table. All that those without a seat at the table are asking for is a chance to be heard and to be part of the decision making about the great problems confronting humanity, including the inequitable allocation of resources, the militarization of the planet, the destruction of the environment, the abuse of human rights, and the list goes on. All of these great global issues can only be effectively addressed by global cooperation, and such cooperation is not possible if chairs are missing from humanity’s table.
It is increasingly evident that either everyone will be seated, or at least represented at the table, or the table will become increasingly irrelevant to solving the world’s problems. The world has become too small to treat as a country club and put up “No Trespassing” signs to keep most of the world’s people away from humanity’s table. We’ll either find a way to make room for all of us at the table, or we will fail in achieving the cooperation needed to solve the world’s most pressing problems.